And one of the finest hours of that history is the legend of Panfilov's 28 men, which produced a line every Russian learns as a child and never forgets: “Russia is vast, but there's nowhere to retreat — behind us Moscow.”
For seven decades, these words were attributed to a Red Army officer during the 1941 Battle of Moscow, urging his comrades, armed with little more than rifles and handheld firebombs, to stop a breakthrough by the Wehrmacht's tanks. According to the story, Panfilov's 28 men — the name refers to the general in charge of the division — all died, but they destroyed 18 tanks, and halted the German advance.
And then suddenly, last year, while the movie about “Panfilov's 28 Men” was in production, Russia's chief archivist published a top secret 1948 memo by Stalin's senior prosecutor stating that Panfilov's 28 men had been made up by Soviet journalists looking for a propaganda coup.
There was a battle, but there were more than 28 men, everyone didn't die, and some surrendered.
That didn't stop the filmmakers. Nor did it deter Russian officialdom. The archivist later lost his job. Medinsky argued that the legend is true.